Visit Pensacola Beach Mardi Gras to Get a Taste of New Orleans
A huge party minus the long drive
New Orleans may be considered the Mardi Gras mecca, but it’s not the only city in which to parade, swap beads and boogie to the beats of jazz bands. Pensacola Beach offers a Fat Tuesday bash with a local twist, as the Krewe of Wrecks and 50 other participating floats invade the island for a full day of fun.
The Krewe of Wrecks is a non-pro t group that is active in improving the community through acts of charity. A portion of the organization’s proceeds are distributed through food banks and charities such as the Good Samaritan Clinic and Florida Elks Youth Camps.
According to “Head Wreck” Jeff Goudey, conception of the Krewe dates to 1979, when three people sat down to discuss the lack of business and activity on the beach during the off-season.
“Jane Cooper, one of the founding members, was from New Orleans, so she pitched the idea of bringing Mardi Gras to the Beach,” Goudey explained. “They started hosting meetings in local bars and restaurants, people gained interest, and it’s been a special tradition ever since.”
Back in its early days, it was customary to join the Krewe of Wrecks if you wished to participate in the Mardi Gras Parade. Goudey noted that that particular rite of passage has since changed, as there are dozens of other krewes in the area; but being a part of the original group remains an honor.
Other participants in the Fat Tuesday bash include the Pirates of Orange Beach, the fictitious Mayoki Indian tribe, the Navarre Krewe of Jesters, the Krewe du Ya Yas and the Krewe of Bowlegs. You’ve likely met the latter at Fort Walton Beach’s annual Billy Bowlegs Festival.
“People who haven’t been here before don’t realize what a classy operation the parade is,” Goudey added. “We throw quality beads — none of the cheap, plastic kinds — and floats throw little trinkets and souvenirs that go with their themes. And, we keep it family-friendly. The whole parade stretches several miles and takes a couple of hours to complete, so it’s a great way to spend the day.”
This year, the parade will begin at 2 p.m. on February 11. Floats will compete in multiple contest divisions, including Most Creative, Best Costume, Best Use of Color and Best Throws.
“We have thousands and thousands of people show up for something that just feels so local,” Goudey said. “You’re having fun, whether you’re in the parade or catching beads, and that happiness brings our community together.”
Good Times Roll on the Coast
PENSACOLA GRAND MARDI GRAS PARADE (FEB. 10, 2–6 PM)
For those sticking to the Pensacola mainland for Fat Tuesday, gather with other revelers downtown as more than 100 krewes and floats flood the streets with festivity in the Pensacola Grand Mardi Gras Parade.
Attracting a crowd of about 100,000 people each year, the spectacle is one of Downtown Pensacola’s biggest attractions of the year. This means each costume-clad parader is armed to the teeth with flashy beads, toys, trinkets and traditional Moon Pies for each family to catch!
As the fanfare weaves through Garden and Palafox streets, watering holes and eateries will remain open to fuel the fire and keep the good times rolling.
PANAMA CITY BEACH MARDI GRAS & MUSIC FESTIVAL (FEB. 9–10)
If you’re partial to snazzy, jazzy, Cajun tunes with your carnival, the PCB Mardi Gras & Music Festival delivers the ideal extravaganza. The soulful sounds of Aaron Neville, Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band, Vince Vance & the Valiants and other musicians provide the soundtrack for your revelry as they take Pier Park’s Celebration Stage.
Special activities for children include a themed costume contest, Fun Zone and their very own parade. But they’ll also want to tag along with you to the main parade, where the legendary local pirate, Dominique Youx, and his krewe invade Pier Park with elaborate costumes, floats and booty for the crowd.